Span will try to become the second Nationals player to register a 30-game hit streak in Thursday night's series opener against the Miami Marlins .
Span extended the longest hitting streak of the 2013 season with a single in the seventh inning Wednesday but the Nationals (81-71) fell 5-2 to NL East-leading Atlanta. Washington's loss was only its second in 12 games but was a big blow to a club that still faces a 5 1/2-game deficit to Cincinnati in the race for the NL's final wild-card berth.
"We just can't afford to lose," manager Davey Johnson said after the end to a three-game win streak. "We've just to start another win streak. It's that simple."
Span will try to match teammate Ryan Zimmerman 's 30-game run from 2009, the longest since the relocation from Montreal following the 2004 season. Vladimir Guerrero had a franchise-record 31-game run for the Expos in 1999.
Dan Uggla was the last major leaguer to have a hit streak of 30 games or longer, a 33-gamer July 5-Aug. 13, 2011, for Atlanta.
Span, batting .371 during his streak, is hitting .341 against Miami (56-96) this season and is 4 for 6 with two doubles all-time against scheduled starter Henderson Alvarez (4-4, 3.97 ERA).
Alvarez is coming off a dominant 3-0 win at the New York Mets on Saturday. The right-hander allowed four hits and walked none over seven innings and is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his two road starts this month.
"It's nice to get the solid pitching performance from Alvarez. He looked great," manager Mike Redmond said.
Alvarez gave up one run in 1 2-3 innings in Washington on Aug. 28 before a rain delay ended his start in a 4-3 defeat. He allowed two runs over 6 2-3 innings July 14 in his only other start against the Nationals this season but did not get a decision in a 5-2 loss.
Stephen Strasburg was originally scheduled to start for Washington in this game but his return from forearm tightness was pushed back until Saturday. The Nationals will instead send out Gio Gonzalez (10-7, 3.40).
Gonzalez had a three-start win streak snapped Saturday with a 5-4 defeat to Philadelphia. He gave up four runs and nine hits over six innings after posting a 0.42 ERA in his previous three starts.
Gonzalez began that impressive stretch with a 9-0 win over Miami on Aug. 29, yielding three hits and three walks while striking out eight in seven innings. The left-hander has pitched 13 scoreless innings against the Marlins, losers in 10 of 13.
Miami earned one of those rare wins Wednesday, 4-3 in 10 innings at Philadelphia, as Ed Lucas hit the tiebreaking solo homer.
A second straight victory looks unlikely as Miami has dropped all six games in Washington this season and six of the past seven overall matchups.
The Nationals will try to secure the franchise's first set of back-to-back winning seasons since Montreal finished 83-79 in both 2002 and 2003.
|September 09, 2013||Jeff Mathis||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right thumb|
|September 08, 2013||Giancarlo Stanton||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right foot and ankle|
|September 02, 2013||Henderson Alvarez||Day-to-Day||Left game - tight right hamstring|
|September 01, 2013||Giancarlo Stanton||Day-to-Day||Right ankle|
|August 19, 2013||Placido Polanco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 19, 2013||Placido Polanco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|September 08, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left hip soreness|
|August 22, 2013||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|August 17, 2013||Taylor Jordan||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|August 13, 2013||Wilson Ramos||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
|August 11, 2013||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Right knee|
|August 01, 2013||Ross Ohlendorf||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After Bryce Harper provided Washington with a first-inning lead, the Nationals spent the rest of the game holding off the worst team in the National League.
Harper hit a three-run homer to back an effective pitching performance by Gio Gonzalez , and the Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 3-2 on Thursday night to keep alive their slim hope of reaching the playoffs.
Despite winning 11 of 13 in a belated run, the Nationals trail Cincinnati by five games for the final NL wild-card slot with nine games remaining.
Washington needed every bit of mettle it could muster to win this one. Gonzalez (11-7) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third and spied a runner trying to steal third in the sixth.
Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard each worked a harrowing scoreless inning before Rafael Soriano got three outs, stranding two runners in earning his 42nd save.
"I mean, everybody was out there. Gave me a heart attack. Check my pulse," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "Gio took it right to the edge, Storen to the edge, Clip and Sori topped it off. But it's nice to come out on top."
Denard Span went 0 for 4 for Washington, ending his hitting streak at 29 games - one short of the Nationals record. He was bidding to become the 27th player to have a 30-game hitting streak since Joe DiMaggio had his 56-game run in 1941.
Span received a standing ovation from many in the crowd of 25,945 after he struck out in the seventh, his final at-bat. Although the streak is done, Span expressed no regret.
"It was unbelievable," he said. "It was like a roller-coaster, especially these last 10 days or so. It was a lot of fun. It gave me added motivation, to come to the field to try to extend it."
Gonzalez allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings to improve to 3-0 against Miami this season. He struck out three, lifting his team-high total to 186.
"The good news is we got the win," Gonzalez said. "It's a very important win."
Harper's 20th homer of the season came off Henderson Alvarez (4-5) and turned out to be all the offense the Nationals needed to improve to 12-4 against Miami, including 7-0 at home.
"I like being in those pressure situations, crucial situations of playing for the wild card," Harper said. "All year long you try to play for the playoffs and try to go to the next round. Now it's getting to that point where we're turning it on and playing the game how we should have played it all year."
Ed Lucas had three hits for the Marlins, who must go 7-2 in their last nine games to avoid 100 losses. Miami went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.
"I think that's good we're getting guys in scoring position, but at the same time we've got to do a better job of driving those guys in," manager Mike Redmond said. "We seem to have two or three, four opportunities a night and can't capitalize on them and really that ends up being the difference."
Miami went up 1-0 when Donovan Solano opened the game with a double and Lucas followed with an RBI single.
In the bottom half, Ryan Zimmerman hit the first of his three singles and Jayson Werth walked before Harper drove a hanging curveball over the wall in center field. It was his first home run since Aug. 29.
The Marlins loaded the bases with two outs in the third before Placido Polanco flied out.
Successive doubles by Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Ruggiano got Miami within 3-2 in the sixth, but Gonzalez nabbed Ruggiano trying to steal third, short-circuiting the uprising.
"I say jokingly, `I set him up,"' Gonzalez said. "I'm glad I got out of that inning."
NOTES: Jordan Zimmermann seeks his 19th win for Washington on Friday night. Miami starter Jacob Turner (3-7) will attempt to break a six-game losing streak. ... The Nationals acquired minor league pitcher Matthew Spann as the player to be named in the Aug. 23 trade that sent OF David DeJesus to Tampa Bay. Spann is 14-10 with a 3.03 ERA in four pro seasons. ... Johnson expects RHP Stephen Strasburg to start Saturday. Strasburg felt forearm tightness while throwing Wednesday and was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday. ... Both teams received a warning from home plate umpire Bill Welke after Alvarez hit Ian Desmond with a 3-0 pitch in the first inning. Johnson said Alvarez should have been ejected. ... The Nationals are 28-11 since Aug. 8.